Michaela Onyenwere (306510)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

After a solid first half of the season, the New York Liberty looked to head into the Olympic break on a positive note, but it didn’t work out that way. Unfortunately, the Liberty suffered an 82–69 road loss to the Indiana Fever, the team with the worst record in the WNBA, and then a 71–54 homecourt loss to the Connecticut Sun. While New York remains solidly in playoff contention, the losses clearly frustrated coach Walt Hopkins.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Hopkins after the Sun loss. “Effort is good with us generally; execution has not been. … I don’t know if there’s one area that we need to focus on here, but we’re not doing a good job of consistently doing the things that we do when we win games. When we do them, we win. When we don’t, we get whooped.”

As the team’s 10 wins show, this team has great potential. It obviously doesn’t help that Jocelyn Willoughby is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, Rebecca Allen left before the break to honor her commitment to the Australian Olympic team, Natasha Howard sustained a knee injury soon after joining the team, and Sabrina Ionescu is only able to play limited minutes.

Hopkins emphasized the importance of remaining a cohesive group as opposed to a group of individuals. He praised the players’ enthusiasm, but said there are “bouts of individuality,” which he said the best teams don’t have.

“That’s part of our growth,” Hopkins said. “Even our vets are now learning a new role. They’re learning how to be leaders. They’re learning how to be more of a focal point. … No question the 10 wins are a good start. I think we’re all very certain that we could have at least three more.”

Thankfully, everyone gets a bit of rest during the Olympic break before resuming practice. Also, it’s possible that Howard will return to the court after the break. Despite his frustration, Hopkins remains optimistic.

“Part of my job is knowing how good they can be,” Hopkins said. “It’s not a frustration with them as individuals. It’s a frustration that I don’t think they understand that they’re ready right now to take those steps. They just need to apply the things they’re learning more consistently.”

The Liberty resume play Aug. 15 on the road and return to Barclays Center Aug. 18 against the Seattle Storm.